How to Clean Your Vehicle’s Exterior: Useful Tips and Techniques

If you’re the proud owner of a car, you’ll know that the care required to look after ‘Daisy’, or whatever name you’ve baptised it with, extends beyond servicing and maintenance; it also includes keeping the vehicle clean inside and out. Cleaning your car’s exterior not only enhances its aesthetic appeal but also helps to maintain its value. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process and steps required when learning how to clean your vehicle’s exterior, and also provide useful tips and techniques to achieve a professional-grade result.

Tools You Need for a Car Wash

Cleaning tools on a white background

Before you begin your car wash, gathering the right tools is essential. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Two Buckets: Using a two-bucket system helps prevent scratches on your vehicle. One bucket contains the soapy water for cleaning, while the other is filled with clean water for rinsing the sponge or cloth.
  • Car Wash Soap: Regular household detergents can damage the car’s paint. Opt for a specialised car wash soap designed to clean effectively while preserving the vehicle’s finish.
  • Wash Mitt/Sponge: Soft, non-abrasive materials, such as a wash mitt or sponge, are best for car cleaning to avoid scratching the paint.
  • Hose with Adjustable Nozzle: For a thorough rinse and to easily remove dirt and soap.
  • Microfiber Towels: For drying the vehicle without leaving streaks or lint behind.
  • Car Wax: To protect the paint and give your car a shiny finish.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Car’s Exterior

Close-up of a person's hand cleaning a car light

Follow the steps below to give your car a shine others will stop to admire:

Step 1: Rinse Your Car

Start your car wash by rinsing your car from top to bottom with a hose. This removes loose dirt and debris and prevents scratching during the washing process.

Step 2: Prepare Your Buckets

Fill one bucket with the car wash soap mixed with water as per the product instructions. Fill the second bucket with clean water for rinsing.

Step 3: Wash the Car

Dip the wash mitt or sponge into the soapy water, and start washing your car from the top, working your way down to the dirtier parts of the car like the wheels and bumpers. Rinse the mitt frequently in the second bucket to remove accumulated dirt.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

After washing each section, rinse off the soap immediately to prevent it from drying on the car and leaving a residue. Once the entire car is clean, use the microfiber towels to dry it thoroughly, preventing water spots.

Step 5: Apply Car Wax

Applying car wax after a wash helps protect the paint and adds an extra layer of shine. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.

Expert Tips for a Successful Car Wash

A new clean car parked on a city street side.

If you want to move through the gears and take your car wash process to new heights, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Avoid Direct Sunlight: Washing your car in direct sunlight can cause soap to dry quickly on the paint, leading to streaks and spots. Aim for early morning or late afternoon when the sun isn’t as intense, or find a shaded spot.
  2. Clean the Wheels Last: Wheels are often the dirtiest part of the car. Save them for last to avoid contaminating your wash mitt and spreading brake dust and grime onto the rest of the vehicle.
  3. Use a Clay Bar for Extra Shine: If you want your car to have a smooth and shiny finish, use a clay bar after washing and before applying wax. It will remove any residual grime and prep your car’s surface for waxing.

Lastly, don’t forget to clean and disinfect your vehicle’s interior for it to match the outer shine.


A thorough car wash requires a bit of time and effort, but it’s worth it to keep your vehicle looking its best. However, between work, family, and other responsibilities, finding time for a detailed car wash can be a challenge.

That’s where an Outdoor SweepStar can come in to help. As South Africa’s #1 home services platform, SweepSouth extends beyond just home cleaning. Our range of services also includes outdoor services such as a stellar car wash. With just a few clicks, you can book a convenient time for a vetted professional to clean your car right on your doorstep, saving you time and effort. At SweepSouth, we aim to provide comprehensive services that make your life easier. Enjoy the convenience of a SweepSouth cleaning service, and keep your home, and your car, at their very best.

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